My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Some choice quotes from Sam Wiebe's PI narrator, Dave Wakeland:
"Whoever had called Vancouver a city of glass hadn’t been talking about my city"
"Far from being kind-hearted rustics, the islanders are real estate swindlers, corporate sleazes, tycoons, stock manipulators. And lawyers. Lots of lawyers. Bowen Island is a refuge for the undeserving"
"[The architect's] fondness for concrete and despair helped earn SFU the unflattering distinction of having the highest suicide rate among Canadian universities"
"And I know the idea of a person having a soul is laughable, obscene even, given this world of mass destruction, of epidemics, of fast food genocide. It is unprovable and it is silly and I hold on to it, clinging, with all my terrified strength."
The last is as metaphysical as Wakeland or Wiebe get, but it's enough to leaven what is an almost punishingly physical read.
Wakeland's pursuit of a woman -- a junkie and a prostitute -- who vanished a number of years ago is quixotic in the extreme: by now the number of women who have "disappeared" from the streets of Vancouver would be enough to populate a city all their own. The investigation nets him more than one beating, and leads him down unexpected paths that connect seemingly disparate social strata.
Wiebe seems heavily influenced by both Ross and John D. MacDonald, dragging their bruised and weary Galahads into a world where digital cameras and Google searches necessarily contribute to the intrigue. With this novel Wiebe's Vancouver is poised to join the MacDonalds' LA and Florida as a locale that mirrors the disparities and vagaries within the human heart.
This is accomplished contemporary pulp noir, in other words -- a terrific launch.
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